Rentals help some cities weather housing bustby Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
Hopkins, Minn. — New Census data released this week show a patchwork quilt of gains and losses across the state when it comes to homeownership. Some cities have fared better than others over the last five years -- the height of the housing boom and bust.
Among the bigger cities in the metro, the city of Hopkins -- located about a half hour west of Minneapolis -- had the lowest rate of homeownership.
City Manager Rick Getschow isn't surprised. Rentals make up nearly 60 percent of the city's more than 8,000 housing units. Getschow said all those apartments have helped Hopkins weather the crash in home values over the last few years.
"In a down economy, the rental housing will usually have low vacancy rates, and that will help our values and it will help in terms of folks having choices in housing," he said.
Getschow says the housing mix will also position the city to take advantage of the proposed Southwest Corridor light rail line from Minneapolis to the southwestern suburbs.
A drive around Hopkins reveals that diverse mix - downtown rental apartments and condos surrounded by blocks of single family homes with big porches. There is senior housing. And a number of newer loft condo developments.
The city added about 300 new single-family condos during the boom. And Hopkins plans to increase homeownership even more.
Charles Redepenning owns a music shop on Mainstreet with his wife. The half-century old store is just down the street from one of the first condo developments built in Hopkins in 2004.
Redepenning, who once worked for city government, would like to see more traditional single family homes go up.
"I'm not suggesting that you tear down what we have and replace it with single family homes but I do think that I would like to see more single family homes."
But he also appreciates how Hopkins' rental housing attracts empty nesters, professionals and students.
"They can walk to all of the different places they want to walk to," said Redepenning. "It's close to the bus, most of their needs they can walk to if they wish to - still, it's the suburbs."
His wife LeRona say they like the energy renters and condo owners bring to the city.
"It's kind of nice if everybody stays and you know people for years and years and years," said LeRona Redepenning. "I think it's good, it gives fresh ideas and just fresh people."
The opposite housing picture can be found in the city of Corcoran, near Maple Grove in the northwest metro.
98 percent of Corcoran residents own their homes the most in the Metro.
"Because we are all single family, I can see why we are the largest percentage of homeowners," said City Administrator Dan Donahue. He said the city of 6,000 people is looking at ways to attract more rentals in the future. He says this is a big change from a decade ago, when the mantra was "no development is good development."
"We don't want, for example, the traditional suburban tract home kind of developments," said Donahue. "We are more attuned to cluster development."
The newly released Census data show similar dramatic swings in homeownership across Minnesota.
Because the data lags behind by a year, researchers say it doesn't yet reflect the recession's whole impact.
Minnesota still had the highest rate of homeownership in the nation - about three in every four Minnesotans is a homeowner. But a closer look reveals a more murky picture.
The data showed the state had the fifth largest homeownership gap between whites and people of color: 77 percent of whites owned homes, compared to only about 43 percent of people of color.
Minnesota Home Ownership Center director Julie Gugin says minority homeowners have suffered more than the state overall in the housing crash.
"Subprime lending was particularly prevalent in communities of color when it was going on," said Gugin. "And therefore the fallout from it has hit those communities harder than other communities."
Gugin says it's clear the recession will take a big bite out of the state's homeownership rate. Her group is pushing the housing industry to make it easier for ALL Minnesotans to own a home.
"It's still a good idea for those people who are ready and those people who can afford it," Gugin said.
She says homeownership is still the primary way for families to build wealth and stability over the long term. But the housing crisis has re-ignited a debate over whether that's still true.
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story reported the number of housing units in Hopkins as 16,700 instead of the correct figure of just over 8,000. This has since been corrected. The number of people living in housing units in Hopkins is about 16,700. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.
Owner-occupied Housing in Minnesota
- Morning Edition, 12/17/2010, 7:25 a.m.